Category: News Release

The News Release Quandary: Three of the Most Asked Questions, Answered and Three Tips to Writing the Better Release

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Recently, our friend the news release and his/her kissing cousin – securing coverage – have been coming up in several conversations.

  • Should I be sending out a release once a week?
  • Is there a limit as to the amount of releases you should send out?
  • How do you write for a benign topic?

Before I take a stab at answering these questions, I’d like to take a quick step back to talk about what I view as my job.

I develop compelling stories for the appropriate audiences. I make my money – in part – by understanding what is news, what makes news and how to best present the news in a way that is going to provide the biggest bang for my client’s buck. Throughout my career, I’ve mentored individuals on getting to the point where they can confidently and accurately pitch a story and, in the same regard, explain why I particular idea is not appropriate to pitch.

The news release should be viewed as a communication tool. It is not just for breakfast anymore. As a matter of fact, it is used less by mainstream media and used more as a Search Engine Optimization vehicle.

Your business reporter at the Orange County Register, Austin Statesman, Oregonian, New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, etc. is not looking at the releases coming across their desk from PR Newswire, Business Wire, PR Web or others. Either are the producers at Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Nightly Business Report, Extra, Good Day Dallas, etc. They are looking at wire stories from Associated Press and Reuters among others. They are looking on their Twitter feeds, following those individuals in those industries of interest to them.

For the overwhelming majority of instances, if the desire is to secure media coverage, you will need to reach out to reporters and producers directly. Sending out a release over the wire and waiting isn’t going to cut it.

Again, the release is a tool. As is a blog post, video or social post. Understand what you are wanting to accomplish and who you are wanting to reach. Develop the compelling message and determine the best vehicle.

Now, onto the questions:

  1. Should I be sending out a release once a week? Most likely no and you shouldn’t be thinking “just releases” when you are wanting to reach your real audience. Ask yourself – what is the story, who am I trying to reach and what is the best way of reaching them?
  1. Is there a limit as to the amount of releases you should send out? No, the true newsworthiness and the desired result of the communication should determine how many types of communications should be sent out (again, not just the release).
  1. How do you write for a benign topic? You don’t. Whether it is a release, blog, post or video, if it doesn’t resonate with someone, don’t do it.

When writing a news release (or any communication in which you are pitching), remember the following:

  1. Grammar counts. Don’t turn off the media or your real audience with improper usage.
  1. Write for your real audience, not your client. Shouldn’t be about making sure your client’s name is the first word in the release. Compelling story for the real story.
  1. Short and sweet. Use quotes sparingly and only when the quote moves the story forward.

As it relates to media relations, if/when you send out a release (or fact sheet, email, advisory, etc.) and reach out to a reporter or producer – – don’t ask if they’ve received the release. Pitch them the compelling story.

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The Days of Major Media Using Your Release Verbatim are Over (Not That They Were Ever Under)

ImageLast week a good friend of mine who owns his own business asked me about sending out a news release. His concern was sending out the release the day after the Pope announcement – – would the media avoid the news release because of the Papal appointment? (as a funny aside, I saw several Tweets and posts from PR folks “advising” to send out your bad news today since the media was covering the news from the Vatican)

My feeling has always been the news release does not equal news coverage from the media. The only wire a reporter at The Denver Post is looking at on his or her computer is from the Associated Press, Reuters, etc. However, 15 years ago it was difficult to disprove that because news releases were routinely seen – verbatim – on sites like MSNBC, New York Times, Denver Post, etc.

The somewhat dirty little secret at the time was, because of relationships the press release companies had with different aggregators, client releases would be seen on high profile sites.

That was the good news. The bad news was the release was so buried within the site that it would take you – literally – seven or eight clicks to get to the release. This was before the days of Google (yes, there were days before Google) so the real likelihood of being seen was…what is the word I’m looking for…small.

This is less indictment and more comment on the times. For me, if you wanted to get a story in print, on television, etc., you needed to reach out to the media and build a relationship by (for those who have read my blogs before, here it comes) developing a compelling story for your real/appropriate audience.

Well, times have certainly changed, but some things remain the same: the best way to get a story out to your real/appropriate audience via the media is by developing the compelling story and unless you are a publicly held company, the media aren’t waiting for your news release.

Does that mean the news release is dead? Absolutely not. Like many who have aged, I believe it has gone through a facelift of sorts. I would categorize a press release as a type of content that can/should be used to help tell a story, build a brand, etc. Distributing the news release has benefits. It can rank on the search sites. It can be a part of your company blog. You can Tweet about it and post on your Facebook Page.

Along the same lines, the way we reach the media has most definitely changed, but whether it is Direct Messaging them on Twitter, following their Facebook Page, calling, emailing or texting the one thing remains the same – – the media want/need compelling stories. And, given the increased access to what they are looking for, there are no real excuses as to not pitching them something appropriate.

But what about the media itself? Media has changed over the year with bloggers, social sites and news aggregators altering the landscape and not necessarily following the “rules” of…your mother’s media. Today, someone may post a story without checking sources, Tweet it to his followers and – when he/she realizes a mistake was made, sends a correction that isn’t “consumed” by everyone who received the first Tweet.   Well, this is a topic for another day.

Another friend of mine shared a great infographic talking about the changing face of PR.  The bottom part of it was my favorite. Those elements that remain: relationships, storytelling, thought leadership, authenticity, facts, speed, preparedness and credibility.